Military Ammunition and Why Green Tip M855 is Not Armor Piercing

by June 6, 2011 06/6/11
M855/SS109 5.56 Ammunition (Green Tip)

Over the weekend I attended the final hours of my NRA RSO (Range Safety Officer), Rifle and Shotgun Instructors training. While I won’t get into the NRA’s embargo on the word “weapon,” or that a few instructors freaked out when I carried a firearm with the muzzle pointed at the ground, I did learn something from our readers on Facebook I’d like to share with everyone.

Throughout my time in the Military, I’d always referred to M855/SS109 5.56 Ammunition (Green Tip) as armor piercing rounds or AP. For the life of me I can’t recall where I first heard that mentioned, but it was fairly common for it to be referred to as that.

One of the final taskers for the NRA courses was to construct a training aid and you’ll see a photo below of what I put together.

Armor Piercing?

M855/SS109 5.56 Ammunition (Green Tip)As you’ll see, I have the green tip marked “AP Tip,” which is how I explained my training aid to the class as well. (If you’re wondering, it was made from a cardboard tube, floral foam, paint and a little creative thinking).

After a few people pointed out that M855 isn’t AP in the Facebook comments of the photo I posted, I started doing some digging. It turns out that sure enough, M855 was removed from the ATF’s list of AP rounds. I haven’t been able to track down when this change took place, but I thought it was important to share to all those that have considered M855 to be AP rounds like I did.

While having a Steel Penetrator Tip, this doesn’t constitute M855/SS109 as “Armor Piercing.” The round was designed for increased penetration at longer ranges to combat SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) issues though.

Things may or may not be clearer once you read how the Federal Government defines AP ammunition in 18 USC sec. 921(a)(17).

Definition

(17)(A) The term “ammunition” means ammunition or cartridge cases, primers, bullets, or propellent powder designed for use in any firearm.

(B) The term “armor piercing ammunition” means-

(i) a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or

(ii) a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.

(C) The term “armor piercing ammunition” does not include shotgun shot required by Federal or State environmental or game regulations for hunting purposes, a frangible projectile designed for target shooting, a projectile which the Attorney General finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes, or any other projectile or projectile core which the Attorney General finds is intended to be used for industrial purposes, including a charge used in an oil and gas well perforating device.

What does all that mean?

A few things to take note of is that the classification as “armor piercing” is for bullets only, not the complete cartridge. Despite the mention of handgun caliber above, you can take that to mean that it’s a round that has been made as a handgun caliber at some point.

The bullet (projectile) must also have a core made entirely out of the metals listed above, or be a full jacketed bullet with a jacket weighing more than 25% of its overall weight. This means that the SS109/M855 bullets wouldn’t be covered, as their cores are partly steel, and partly lead. Lead isn’t listed in the metals above. Furthermore, as you’ll see in the list below, the ATF has specifically stated that the SS109/M855 bullets are exempted from AP status.

ATF AP Classified Rounds

  • All KTW, ARCANE, and THV ammo
  • Czech made 9mm Para. with steel core
  • German made 9mm Para. with steel core
  • MSC .25 ACP with brass bullet
  • BLACK STEEL armor and metal piercing ammunition
  • 7.62mm NATO AP and SLAP
  • PMC ULTRAMAG with brass bullet (not copper)
  • OMNISHOCK .38 Special with steel core
  • 7.62×39 ammo with steel core bullets

ATF Exempted Rounds

  • 5.56 SS109 and M855 NATO rounds, with steel penetrator tip.
  • .30-06 M2 AP ammo

Hopefully that clears up some confusion for you like it did for me. You can rest easy that when a range calls for no AP rounds that you’ll be safe using M855 if desired. If you’re in the market for ammo, be sure to check out our sponsor Lucky Gunner for great online ammo prices!


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jk
jk

dOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD, you frickin spelt (on purpose) ballistics wrong (notice the two L's there)

uknowshitabout balistics
uknowshitabout balistics

What a fool, stmmeel head encased in brass to adhere to barrel rifling is my expertise. A 22 mag will travel through both doors of a standard vehicle and remain in motion.

Guest
Guest

George Soros became a billionaire by disturbing markets and reaping the windfalls.

This recent panic buying /price surge sure fits the description.


JonHornung
JonHornung

so glad I took up reloading after the last ammo shortage, I thought, damn it's so easy to yell "shortage" and all of a sudden I'm paying a dollar a round for plinking, F^&*! Seriously, you don't need to lose your gun rights, just not saving any for a rainy day would be just as effective! just my opinion...

Charles Easter
Charles Easter

To ALL the Idiots who Blame the AR Pistol makers, remember, Ruger made a Folding Stock 13" barreled Mini 14 called the AC556F, without the stock, it Would be a Pistol.  Ruger began making this gun in 1973, hardly a New Thing.  Enjoy!


1bigcheesehead
1bigcheesehead

@BartKatz Excellent!  But stay vigilant Patriots, they certainly aren't waiving any white flags, more like they are falling back and regrouping...

bayman55
bayman55

.22 ammo is NOT that hard to get. They are manufacturing it everyday. Stores and gun shops are holding it back so they can charge you high prices for it, under the guise that it is scarce. Find an employee that is not afraid to talk to you.

1bigcheesehead
1bigcheesehead

@bayman55 How do you know "what it is supposed to be" when prices are jacked up all over?  And how do you know its being held by customs at the border?

boomstick2016
boomstick2016

@bayman55 THIS IS NOT TRUE! I am the middleman, local gun shop. CCI is in Canada. 22s are being held in customs at the border. The U.S. can't make enough to stay on top of the demand. I have 21 distributors same as everyone else and its all allocated. As far as mark up, if I can't get it for what is is suppose to be, I don't get it.

duck762
duck762

@bayman55  that's BS.. my local Walmart hasn't had 22LR 99.9% of the time for 3 years now.and my local gun dealer only has Mexican or south American junk.. and when he does get good brand ammo its at a high price because distributers are the ones jacking up the prices...

silverorange
silverorange

@bayman55 i work at bass pro shops, we get .22 ammo in regularly. It is the people coming in as soon as we open and buying as much as they can that are the problem, we limit it just for that reason so everybody can get some. They get around this by bringing friends/sons/daughters to buy it for them. We get in buckets of 1600, bricks of 550, 333, 100, 50. CCI, winchester, federal, and another i cant remember right now.

gsuburban
gsuburban

@silverorange @bayman55 Obviously Bass Pro isn't ordering enough. I could duplicate the same at any grocery store who isn't fulfilling the customers needs.  If Bass Pro can't increase their order quantity, then it's the middle or maker who isn't keeping up with demand, just like markets have been for decades. If demand is high, you increase production or else lose on the added sales. If you band together, something folks believe the ammo makers are doing, you don't expand your production business, you triple and quadruple your prices for doing the same amount of work.


bayman55
bayman55

A lot of people being ripped off by so called, we stand with you, gun shops and online web sites. Crooks taking advantage of the ammo ban scare, to make big profits.

duck762
duck762

@bayman55  its the middle man making all the profit. manufacturer sells it to supply warehouses.they jack up the prices so bad at times.my dealer is buying foreign 22s to cell because of how much they want for CCI or other name brands...


gsuburban
gsuburban

Seems like were finding out more about why this sudden focus on this ammo:


Hammond said the timing is not a coincidence.

“There is a massive backlog of M855 ammunition from NATO, which was about to come onto the American market as a result of the fact NATO is being encouraged to go from lead to copper ammunition,” Hammond said.

“This action, if it were successful, would [make illegal] the sale and possession of that to individuals in America of this massive backlog, which is coming on line from a government surplus.”


Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2015/03/obamas-bullet-grab-sparks-rebellion/#uUJpZJFqIo8OczxB.99

Corey A
Corey A

@BartKatz I don't believe this pistol is really an issue because it's not an autoloading pistol.  It's a break barrel single shot.  I don't believe this qualifies as a "handgun" for the "designed and intended for a handgun" test under the proposed framework.  I can't remember where I read it, either in the TItle itself, or the framework document.

Corey A
Corey A

no I disagree. The problem isn't the AR pistols because in time that fad would simply fade away and law abiding citizens should be able to buy them and any ammo they can afford. But the ban won't fade away if it goes into effect. The gun grabbers are just looking for justification to do what they plan to do anyway. They'll always take the path of least resistance first. This is low hanging fruit. And I'm sure there are a good number of paid trolls working these forums trying to turn us against each other and against the ammo manufacturers and gun selling websites. Divide and conquer is their goal.

JonHornung
JonHornung

@Corey A The tested, tried and true method is "shake them up with something big" then "after all the screaming, there would be a CompromisE, ie, look, we will work with you," last but not least "take what you wanted to take all along, with so many that don't want to fight for anything say ("go ahead that's o.k. I don't use it, have one, want one, care if someone else doesn't have a chance to have one"). And suddenly we are scratching ours heads trying to figure out how seemingly overnight, everything that was taken for granted is gone.

duck762
duck762

Corey A... I totally agree. go on gun broker dot com.. thousands of rds of CCI 22s that I haven't seen any place for over a year.they are being bid off at massive prices..no website has any m855 or ss109 at a good price..70 cents around is total BS..gun broker dot com again many thousands of rds being sold big profits.. I just got a case m855 41 cents a bullet 414.00.. on gun broker for same case is as high as 900.00.total BS. I'm hoping people pay it then the ATF doesn't ban it..

walkingjay001
walkingjay001

@duck762 @BartKatz Some time ago I was standing in line at the local Dick's sporting goods trying to get 22lr for the guys shooting league, and heard the following " I don't shoot, but I have 30,000 rounds in the basement, in case everything falls apart I can trade it for food"  the lowlife got the last bulk pack of 22 on the shelf, and you know things are bad when the league shooters will settle for "bucket-o-bullets" bulk packs.

BartKatz
BartKatz

@duck762 I see zero bids on the really high asking prices.  So it really isn't selling for that.


duck762
duck762

@BartKatz @duck762  I agree but my main point was that's why we cant find it.because people are being greedy.it will sell at some point..

and in my local gun shop just got 8000rds m855 its over 60 cents rd..

duck762
duck762

its the middle man that supplies the dealers with ammo jacking up the prices.but it doesn't help that people buy in bulk then put it for sale on gun broker for triple the price.

Corey A
Corey A

That is pure BS. Middlemen made the profit not the manufacturers The price of m855 today has no connection to the price that was paid for it to the manufacturer. If this ban goes through it will hurt all manufacturers of m855 here in the us and other countries that export to the US. Only those who have government contracts will survive. It's the government driving up the cost, not the manufacturers. Without interference from gun grabbers the price of m855 had just finally fallen to pre-Sandy Hook prices. So it was time for Obama and his cronies to create a new crisis to force prices back up, disrupt supply and distract us all on the Obama care repeal and his illegal amnesty And his lack of any meaningful foreign policit's and general lack of leadership.

fred 845
fred 845

You fools don't get it. Who has profited from ammunition and gun bans? 1989 US firearms Mfg's made large profits from the ban of imported assault weapons. 1994 Crime bill increased gun and magazine sales x20. Ammo mfg's have made big profits from the recent run on 22 ammo.

Corey A
Corey A

Yeah sure they are...

stevetwilson1984
stevetwilson1984

@Corey A The manufacturer's are doing it. They are the new OPEC and laughing all the way to the bank as they have FOX news spread the fear that it is the government, and soon everything will be banned, taken away, etc....

Corey A
Corey A

You honestly believe there is an actual demand driven shortage of 22 ammo? You think the ammo companies wouldnt rather just sell more of it to make a bigger profit? Someone is buying it up and limiting supply intentionally to raise the price. And that is either the government or some meddler like Bloomberg... And they are probably using the profits they are making to turn around and buy even more ammo supplies. There is no way demand alone has raised the price this much and this long. And ammo manufacturers are baffled because they know how much they are making and know the supply is out there.

gsuburban
gsuburban

@Corey A Agreed. The manufactures aren't at fault for anything but I couldn't say the same for the Government. Folks tend to collect when they buy in this sport so there's a bit of that with all purchases, has been for a long time. Folks who buy ammo today are getting ripped off in price but we can blame that on Government, not the people who own guns. $45 for a brick of .22 long rifle? 

Yazembowski
Yazembowski

@fred 845 223 isn't the only caliber, Look at 45 Colt, used to be about $25/50rds now it's $48/50. What makes that cartridge so expensive? Reeds in Walker Mn says it's his supplier. I say it's cowboy action shooters buying up everything in sight, Cases, Bullets, bullet moulds, everything.  Savvy wholesalers, and some unscrupulous dealers, are holding back making prices and consequently profits, soar.
Also, MFGs can make up to 3.5 MILLION 22 LR rounds A DAY - that's 17.5 MILLION rounds a week! 9.1 BILLION rds per year!!!!!   (CCI isn't the only 22LR mfg).   Where the hell are all those rounds? I surmise that the wholesalers are hoarding/Holding back shipments to raise the prices/profits on them too. Look out for low priced 22 LR ammo it's probably a 40 rd box instead of 50rds.   Short packaging has come to the shooting arena! just like the 10.5 oz (pound of coffee) can

(On the science channel CCI can make 14 pallets of 250,000 rds of 22 LR ammo per day and they have at least one ammo plant here in the US)

JUST SAYIN!

Vince
Vince

I reviewed the FBI's "Uniform Crime Report" posted online at:  

www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/leoka/2013/officers-feloniously-killed/felonious_topic_page_-2013

FBI data for the 10-year period from 2004 through 2013 showed that one LEO was killed by a criminal armed with a rifle using the 5.56 mm cartridge, and that death occurred in 2004.  To put this single death over the past ten years in perspective, LEOs were 30 times more likely “to be shot and killed by a fellow LEO in “incidents involving crossfire, by being mistaken for a suspect, during firearms training, and by a self-inflicted firearm mishap” than by a criminal using a rifle and 5.56 mm “armor-piercing ammunition” BATFE seeks to ban.

There is no need to ban the surplus/overrun 5.56 mm to protect law enforcement.  We're in deep trouble when any regulatory agency proposes to "ban" anything they want to, especially if there is no demonstrated need to do so.

danilushka
danilushka

@Jon Delcus Even so, the number is small overall and the rounds weren't likely Green Tip nor fired from pistols either. LEO organizations opposed the ban saying no LEO has been wounded or killed with an AR pistol yet.

Jon Delcus
Jon Delcus

@Vince ...nope nope nope...in that period between '03 and '13 there were 21 LEO killed with .223/5.56.  The single report of 5.56mm was a result of incorrect collation of the raw data and the reports. 

Vince
Vince

I reviewed the FBI's "Uniform Crime Report" posted online at:  

www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/leoka/2013/officers-feloniously-killed/felonious_topic_page_-2013

FBI data for the 10-year period from 2004 through 2013 showed that one LEO was killed by a criminal armed with a rifle using the 5.56 mm cartridge, and that death occurred in 2004.  To put this single death over the past ten years in perspective, LEOs were 30 times more likely “to be shot and killed by a fellow LEO in “incidents involving crossfire, by being mistaken for a suspect, during firearms training, and by a self-inflicted firearm mishap” than by a criminal using a rifle and 5.56 mm “armor-piercing ammunition” BATFE seeks to ban.

There is no need to ban the surplus/overrun 5.56 mm to protect law enforcement.  We're in deep trouble when any regulatory agency proposes to "ban" anything they want to, especially if there is no demonstrated need to do so.

Greg
Greg

Why do some of you keep blaming Senators ??? Yes all Dems are anti gun But this is strictly Traitor Obama's doing. He couldn't get a total ban on ALL guns through the Republican house and senate so he ordered the ATF headed by his appointee to start banning all "assault" weapon ammo for any reason legal or not !!! I HATE Republicans BUT we all NEED to vote for a Republican President in 2 years so he can reverse all this TRAITOR has done !!!

gsuburban
gsuburban

@Greg Senators are the reason why this is a subject at all. Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid etc. It's almost like those folks have nothing else to do but disect the USA with more and more restrictions. There's a hidden agenda there, believe me.

gorogorogoro
gorogorogoro

 ...

From the perspective of law enforcement, however, the most relevant intent is that of a criminal who seeks to use ammunition capable of penetrating body armor when fired from a handgun. If ammunition containing the metal content enumerated in section 921(a)(17)(B)(i) can be used in a handgun—the type of firearm most frequently used by criminals whom police officers encounter on the streets—then, from the law enforcement perspective, the manufacturer’s intent that the ammunition be used for hunting or target shooting (in rifles or handguns) becomes irrelevant. The mere availability of handguns capable of using the ammunition made of the enumerated metals creates the potential for diversion to criminals who could use it in easily concealed firearms to defeat the protective vests worn by police officers – the exact officer safety concern targeted by LEOPA. Contrary to the industry’s position, law Framework for Deciding Sporting Purpose Ammunition pursuant to 18 USC 921(a)(17) enforcement representatives focused on the intent of one class of potential consumer group — those criminals who pose the greatest threat to law enforcement. 

...


from 
http://www.atf.gov/sites/default/files/assets/Library/Notices/atf_framework_for_determining_whether_certain_projectiles_are_primarily_intended_for_sporting_purposes.pdf

HoneyboyWilson
HoneyboyWilson

@Corey A @HoneyboyWilson As Justice Scalia said, no right is absolute. Applying the same restrictions to these AR15 pistols that we apply to fully automatic weapons, just as an example, would best serve the large number of people who shoot AR15 rifles, wouldn't it?

Ed
Ed

@ATF standpoint What you've stated is how I read it too in the proposal. This is all because someone can now by an AR15 "pistol", or "handgun" without NFA tax stamps. Thus, allowing this ammunition to be used in a "handgun", and according to LEOPA 1986, that now negates its primary use as sporting rifle ammunition. 


What's also even more concerning, is the language they propose to change in the LEOPA. Changing form ammunition "designed to penetrate", to "may be used to". This opens the door to ban of all ammo used in AR15 "pistols". Which means any ammo used in the AR platforms.


Please correct me if I'm wrong here. Also, the person who has the last say in this is AG Holder, and I just wonder what he is going to do. It will be his last action before leaving.

Corey A
Corey A

@ATF standpoint Criminals don't care about laws, they will simply use an illegal SBR or pistol with AP ammo, (real AP ammo, not M855) even with your framework. The only people you are affecting is millions of law abiding citizens, not the criminals, but you know that already.  This is simply a part of a systematic attack on our 2nd amendment rights, and like all things in thiis attack, "safety" is  being used to circumvent liberty.

HoneyboyWilson
HoneyboyWilson

@Ed @ATF standpoint It sounds like these AR15 "pistols" are the root cause of the proposed ammo ban. Since there are relatively few of these pistols around compared to the number of AR15 rifles in use, it seems like banning these AR15 "pistols" would best serve the AR15 sport shooting population.

gsuburban
gsuburban

@HoneyboyWilson @ATF standpoint Better to leave it alone. Those anti-gunners just can't factor that the human race has it's problems, not the ammo and gun industry. 


Their theory is no different than outlawing Ford Trucks because they tend to be the ones that have the most kill numbers or injury numbers. I wonder if they think the same for those in the army who have the most kill shots too.

Corey A
Corey A

@HoneyboyWilson How about we just ban people from killing other people except in self defense?  Oh wait, that is already the law?  So how does banning any type of ammunition fix the problem at all?  It doesn't.  Criminals don't care about laws.  The only people this ban affects, is law abiding citizens.  No guns or ammunition should be banned from law abiding citizens, that's why there is a second amendment which states that very clearly.

danilushka
danilushka

@HoneyboyWilson No it doesn't make sense. What makes sense is NOT banning a weapon because it is scary but has not once been used to wound of kill police officer: the AR pistol. Not once and the BATF even admits that is the case. It has never been used to kill a cop. repeated felony gun offenders walk out of jail daily in the country and THAT is the cause fall the pistol deaths, not AR pistols which are too expensive harder to conceal so criminals don't use them. And, BTW< rifles of all kinds not just AR-15s kill fewer people a year than knives per the FBI homicide data base. SO called Assault weapons are not really a problem either.

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